maurice mandelbaum (1908-1987)

Maurice Mandelbaum was for many years a Professor at Johns Hopkins University. He specialized in the philosophy of history, writing such works as The Problem of Historical Knowledge (1938) and The Anatomy of Historical Knowledge (1977). At the same time, he also produced works on ethics (The Phenomenology of Moral Experience, 1955), epistemology (Philosophy, Science and Sense-Perception, 1964) and the history of philosophy (History, Man and Reason, 1971). When he died in 1987, his last work, Purpose and Necessity in Social Theory was going to press.

Mandelbaum defended a form of historical objectivism, affirming that knowledge of the past is possible and is in fact the byproduct of a large part of the actual activity of practicing historians. He introduced the notion of the self-excepting fallacy, according to which the supporters of relativism cannot defend their claims by the appeal to their own (positive) arguments.

Mandelbaum was influenced by gestalt psychology and was mentored by Wolfgang Koehler. Part of my work lies in demonstrating the debt of Mandelbaum to Koehler, so that the larger unity of his approach can be appreciated. Mandelbaum was always a careful thinker, never prone to aggrandized claims. This may have led to some neglect of his theories. However, recent work by Christopher Lloyd of Australia is giving Mandelbaum his due. It is no accident that Lloyd is a member of the contemporary school of "Critical Realism," centered around the personality of Roy Bhaskar, for there are important relationships between Mandelbaum's brand of radical critical realism and Bhaskarian Critical Realism.

Articles on Mandelbaum:

  • Lewis White Beck et al., "Maurice H. Mandelbaum (1908-1987)," Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association 60 (1987): 858-861.

  • Terry Horgan and Mark Timmons, "Moral Phenomenology and Moral Theory," Philosophical Issues 15 (2005), 56-77.

  • Christopher Lloyd, "Realism and Structurism in Historical Theory: A Discussion of the Thought

  • of Maurice Mandelbaum," History and Theory, 28 (1989): 296-325.

  • Ian Verstegen, “Maurice Mandelbaum as a Gestalt Philosopher,” Gestalt Theory 20 (2000): 46-58.

  • Ian Verstegen, "Mandelbaum's Noble Dream: Historical Objectivism through a Century of Debate," in Ian Verstegen, ed., Maurice Mandelbaum and American Critical Realism (London: Routledge, 2009), 65-84.

Bibliography of the Writings of Maurice Mandelbaum


  • The Problem of Historical Knowledge: An Answer to Relativism (New York: Liveright, 1938).

  • The Phenomenology of Moral Experience (Glencoe: Free Press, 1955); second edition, (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1969).

  • Philosophy, Science and Sense-Perception: Historical and Critical Studies (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1964).

  • History, Man and Reason: A Study in Nineteenth-Century Thought (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1971).

  • The Anatomy of Historical Knowledge (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1977).

  • Philosophy, History and the Sciences: Selected Critical Essays (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1984).

  • Purpose and Necessity in Social Theory (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987).


  • “The concept of 'value blindness' (Abstract)," Journal of Philosophy 35 (1938): 675-6.

  • "Can There Be a Philosophy of History," American Scholar 9 (1940): 74-84.

  • "Causal Analysis in History," Journal of the History of Ideas 3 (1942): 30-50.

  • "Arthur O. Lovejoy and the Theory of Historiography," Journal of the History of Ideas 9 (1948): 412-423.

  • "A Critique of Philosophies of History," Journal of Philosophy 45 (1948): 365-378.

  • "Historical Determinism and the Gospel of Freedom,” Journal of General Education 6 (1951): 7-16.

  • "A Note on Emergence," in S. Baron (ed.), Freedom and Reason (Glencoe: Free Press, 1951).*

  • "Some Neglected Philosophic Problems Regarding History," Journal of Philosophy 49 (1952): 317-?

  • "Concerning Recent Trends in the Theory of Historiography," Journal of the History of Ideas 16 (1955): 506-17.

  • "Societal Facts," British Journal of Sociology 6 (1955): 305-17, reprinted in Mandelbaum (1984), pp. 171-83.

  • "On the Use of Moral Principles," Journal of Philosophy 53 (1956): 662-70.

  • "Societal Laws," British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 8 (1957): 211-24.

  • “The Scientific Background of Evolutionary theory in Biology,” Journal of the History of Ideas 18 (1957): 342-61.

  • “Darwin’s Religious Views,” Journal of the History of Ideas 19 (1958): 363-78.

  • "Determinism and Moral Responsibility," Ethics (1960): 204-19.

  • “Historical Explanation: the Problem of Covering Laws,” History and Theory 1 (1961): 229-42; reprinted in Mandelbaum (1984).

  • "Una observacion sobre la 'universalidad' en las filosofias de la historia," Revista de la Universidad de Madrid (1963).

  • "Objectivism in History," in Sidney Hook (ed.), Philosophy and History, (New York: New York University Press, 1963), pp. 43-56.

  • "Philosophy, Science and Sense-Perception," Proceeding and Addresses of the American Philosophical Society, 1963, 36, pp. 5-20.

  • "Family Resemblances and Generalization concerning the arts," American Philosophical Quarterly 1 (1965): 219-28.

  • "The History of Ideas, Intellectual History, and the History of Philosophy," History and Theory Beihaft 5 (1965): 33-66.

  • "Definiteness and Coherence in Sense-Perception," Nous 1 (1967).

  • "Historicism," in Encyclopedia of Philosophy (1967, a), pp. 22-25.

  • "A Note on History as Narrative," History and Theory 6 (1967, b): 413-9.

  • "Preface to the Torchbook Edition," The Problem of Historical Knowledge: An Answer to Relativism (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1967, c), pp.

  • "On Interpreting Mill's Utilitarianism," Journal of the History of Philosophy 6 (1968): 35-46.

  • "Two moot issues in Mill's Utilitarianism," in J. B. Schneewind (ed.), Mill: A Collection of Critical Essays (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1968).

  • “Freedom and the Path to Walden Pond,” Educational Record 52 (Fall 1971): 377-9.

  • "What Do We Mean by the Term 'Psychology,'" Studies in the History and Philosophy of Science 2 (1972): 347-61

  • “The Distinguishable and the Separable: a Note on Hume and Causation,” Journal of the History of Philosophy 12 (1974):

  • "Swarthmore," W.H. Auden: A Tribute. Ed. Stephen Spender. New York: Macmillan, 1975. 119-23.

  • “On the Historiography of Philosophy,” Philosophy Research Archives (1976): 710-45.

  • "The History of Philosophy: Some Methodological Issues," Journal of Philosophy 74 (1977): 561-72.*

  • "A Note on Thomas S. Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions," The Monist 60 (1977): 442-52.*

  • "Psychology and Societal Facts," Logic, Laws and Life: Some Philosophical Complications, (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1977), pp. 235-53.*

  • "The College, the University, and Society," in William Frankena, ed., The Philosophy and Future of Graduate Education (University of Michigan Press, 1978).

  • "The Physiological Orientation of Schopenhauer's Epistemology," in Michael Fox (ed.), Schopenhauer: His Philosophical Achievement (Sussex: Harvester, 1980).

  • "Some Forms and Uses of Comparative History," American Studies International 18 (1980): 19-34.*

  • "Subjective, Objective and Conceptual Relativism," The Monist 63 (1980): 403-28.*

  • "The Presuppositions of Metahistory," History and Theory (1980): 39-54.*

  • "A Note on Nineteenth-Century Philosophy Today," Journal of Philosophy 64 (1981): 133-7.

  • "Preface," in M. E. Moss, Benedetto Croce, (1983).

  • "G. A. Cohen's defense of functionalist explanation," Philosophy of the Social Sciences 12 (1982): 285-7, reprinted in Mandelbaum (1984), pp. 247-50.

  • "On doubting and believing," Philosophy, History and the Sciences: Selected Critical Essays, (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1984). (never published previously).

  • "The Determinants of Choice," Philosophy Research Archives 11 (1986): 355-77.


  • Ludwig Klages, Der Mensch und das Leben, Journal of Philosophy, 1937, 34, p. 719.

  • W. H. Scheidt, Von der Weisheit Goethes für die Geschichte, Journal of Philosophy 34 (1937): 696-7.

  • Wolfgang Erxleben, Erlebnis, Verstehen und geschichtliche Wahrheit, Journal of Philosophy 35 (1938, a): 137.

  • Otto Janssen, Dasein und Wirklichkeit: Eine Einführung in die Seinslehre, Journal of Philosophy, 1938, 35, p. 722.

  • Karl Jaspers, Existenzphilosophie, Journal of Philosophy, 1938, 35, pp. 331-2.

  • C. H. Ratschow, Die Einheit der Person, Journal of Philosophy, 1939, 36, pp. 222-3.

  • Emil Schioth, Gegenstands- und Verhältnislehre, Journal of Philosophy, 1939, 36, p. 52.

  • Wilhelm Reyer, Organische Psychologie, Journal of Philosophy, 1940, 37, pp. 52-3.

  • Rudolf Zocher, Die philosophische Grundlehre: Eine Studie zur Kritik der Ontologie, Journal of Philosophy, 1940, 37, p. 81.

  • Benedetto Croce, American Historical Review 44: 860-1.

  • George Sabine, Social Studies and Objectivity (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1941), Philosophical Review 52 (1943): 81.

  • Jacob Burckhardt, Force and Freedom: Reflections on History, (New York: Pantheon Books, 1943), Philosophical Review 53 (1944): 91-2.

  • Theory and Practice in Historical Study: A Report of the Committe on Historiography (Social Science Research Council), Journal of Philosophy 43 (1946): 446-7.

  • R. G. Collingwood, The Idea of History (New York: Oxford University Press, Journal of Philosophy 44 (1947): 184-188.

  • Morris Cohen, The Meaning of Human History, (La Salle: Open Court, 1947), Review of Metaphysics (1952): 107-15.

  • Karl Jaspers, The Origin and Goal of History, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1953), Philosophical Review 63 (1954): 623-626.

  • Gerard de Gre, Science as Social Institution: An Introduction to the Sociology of Science (Garden City: Doubleday, 1955), American Sociological Review 21 (1956): 534-35.

  • Alfred Stern, Philosophy of History and the Problem of Values, American Historical Review 69 (1963): 82-3.

  • Jack Meiland, Scepticism and Historical Knowledge, American Historical Review 71 (1966): 894.

  • John Rawls, A Theory of Justice, (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1971), History and Theory 12 (1973): 240-50.

  • Morton White, Science and Sentiment in America: Philosophical Thought from Jonathan Edwards to John Dewey, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1972), Philosophical Review 82 (1973): 517-20.

  • Leon Goldstein, Historical Knowing (Austin and London: University of Texas Press, 1976), Journal of Modern History 49 (1977): 292-4.

  • Jonathon Rée, Michael Ayers and Adam Westoby, Philosophy and Its Past, (Atlantic Highlands, Humanities Press, 1978), Philosophical Review 88 (1979): 488-90.

  • Robert Brown, The Nature of Social Laws: Machiavelli to Mill (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1985), Ethics 96 (1986): 427-9.

  • Herbert Schnädelbach, Philosophy in Germany: 1831-1933 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984), Journal of the History of Philosophy 24 (1986): 566-8.

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